Today, Mark Udall announced he, along with Senator Michael Bennet, sent a letter to Senate agricultural committee leadership and appropriators highlighting the importance of conservation programming in the 2008 Farm Bill and the role it continues to play in enhancing Colorado's agricultural economy and conserving one of Colorado's most valuable natural resources -- water.
Conservation programming refers to federal programs authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill that assist producers and landowners in practicing conservation on agricultural lands to protect wildlife habitats, air quality and, especially important in Colorado, water resources. Colorado producers rely on conservation methods developed through programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, which takes highly erodible or environmentally sensitive cropland out of production for a specific time period. Similar programs also assist producers in utilizing new technology and production techniques to remain in compliance with environmental standards that protect wildlife habitat and air quality. The CRP alone has helped reduce soil erosion by 622 million tons over a quarter of a century and has also helped to reduce the application of nitrogen and phosphorous by hundreds of thousands of tons. "This is not only beneficial to the environment, but also to a farmer's bottom line," the senators stated.
Udall remains committed to responsibly cutting spending in order to rein in our national debt, but he wants to do so in ways that will not cripple the Colorado agricultural sector's ability to be on the forefront of new farming methods that help our farmers and ranchers compete in domestic and global markets. Through conservation programs, Colorado agricultural producers use new technology and innovative production techniques to protect agricultural lands for future use and to conserve valuable water resources.
"As the pressure on our nation's farmers and ranchers increases to meet growing global demand, it is important that we maintain adequate support for these important conservation tools when they are needed the most," the senators wrote. "These programs are pay dividends through the benefits they provide to Colorado's agricultural producers, to the rural economies that depend on the survival of farmers and ranchers, to the downstream communities that expect quality water flows, and to the conservation and preservation of our land, water and wildlife."
Following is the text of the letter:
Dear Chairwoman Stabenow, Ranking Member Roberts, Chairman Kohl and Ranking Member Blunt:
As Colorado producers struggle with a difficult spring due to unseasonably cold weather on the Western Slope and devastatingly dry conditions in much of Southern Colorado, we write to emphasize the importance of maintaining a commitment to conservation.
The conservation programs authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill enhance Colorado's agricultural economy, continuing water conservation and environmental protection efforts, and are instrumental in protecting Colorado's way of life. We strongly support continuing and strengthening these programs as we enter into discussions of the 2012 Farm Bill and we are equally supportive of ensuring adequate and fair funding for these programs as we come closer to determining funding for Fiscal Year 2012.
Colorado holds the distinction of being the only state in the contiguous United States in which all major rivers flow out of the state. This fact, combined with our arid landscape, presents special challenges in managing our water resources. Colorado's urban and agricultural water users alike are keenly aware that strong conservation efforts in our cities and our agricultural sector can help to ensure we maintain a vibrant agricultural economy while still meeting our commitments to downstream users, including to the ranking member's state of Kansas. Agriculture producers have a special interest in protecting the land, water and air to ensure the quality and viability of their crops, livestock, and livelihood. For example, working lands programs are key risk management tools for producers grappling with change in climate and severe weather events, such as drought. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and related programs such as the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and the Environmental Quality Incentive Program's Agricultural Water Enhancement Program are critical to ensuring that Colorado's agricultural sector can remain vibrant and be an active participant in overcoming the challenges the arid West faces in water conservation.
Not only has conservation programming been beneficial in water conservation, the programs have also assisted producers in utilizing new technology and production techniques to remain in compliance with environmental standards that protect wildlife habitat and air quality. According to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, the CRP alone has helped reduce soil erosion by 622 million tons over a quarter of a century. This and other conservation programs have also reduced the application of nitrogen and phosphorous by hundreds of thousands of tons. This is not only beneficial to the environment, but also to a farmer's bottom line. As the pressure on our nation's farmers and ranchers increases to meet growing global demand, it is important that we maintain adequate support for these important conservation tools when they are needed the most.
Colorado has a long agricultural history, through which producers have maintained a robust agricultural economy by introducing innovative growing practices that protect environmentally sensitive lands and help to conserve Colorado's most valuable natural resource, water. Accompanied by important and sustained investments in agricultural research the tools the programs provide under the conservation title of the 2008 Farm Bill have helped Colorado remain a leader in the production of cattle, wheat, and potatoes, among other crops and livestock.
We are confident that you all share our concern about our country's short- and long-term fiscal health, and we believe that we need to find ways to ensure that public funds are utilized responsibly and in the best interest of the American public. With this in mind we amplify the message of our constituents in Colorado that these programs are pay dividends through the benefits they provide to Colorado's agricultural producers, to the rural economies that depend on the survival of farmers and ranchers, to the downstream communities that expect quality water flows, and to the conservation and preservation of our land, water and wildlife.
We urge you to take into serious consideration the true and full benefits of conservation as your committees discuss a new Farm Bill and during the ongoing budget and appropriations discussions.
Mark Udall, Michael F. Bennet